SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Money, secrets and sex abuse scandals made Jeffrey Epstein infamous. New Mexico state officials cut all ties with the financier, who owned and leased property south of Santa Fe for decades.
Zorro Ranch south of Santa Fe was shrouded in secrecy. The billionaire behind the sprawling ranch is gone. Only Jeffrey Epstein and his accusers know the dark details of what went on there near Stanley, New Mexico.
Records show Epstein and the Zorro trust bought the ranch from the Gary King family, then built his 33,339 square foot mansion there in the 90s. Since 1993, the Epstein trust had state lease agreements for grazing cattle on public lands near his mansion.
New Mexico State Land Commissioner, Stephanie Garcia Richard, said it wasn’t completely clear how that land was being used.
“One can only speculate … you know this has been a difficult topic for us to tackle,” said Garcia Richard. “Thinking about what state land might have been used for has been you know, has been difficult.”
Garcia Richard took office in 2019. That year, she canceled a decadeslong lease agreement the state had with Epstein for nearly 1,300 acres of grazing land. “We want to encourage a ranching family to use it, we want to encourage rec access to the area,” Garcia Richard explained. “We’ve even talked about some type of memorial site to just recognize what young girls, and women went through in this area and on state land.”
However, Garcia Richard explained, there’s still a problem. “It’s the inaccessible, landlocked state land.”
A state land map shows the two properties in blue that were canceled in the lease agreements. Garcia Richard said the bottom section is landlocked, and the surrounding private property owner refuses to grant public access.
“My staff and I went out to do a field visit, to access the exact acreage you were talking about and were denied access by the private landowner,” said Garcia Richard. The second section of public land is only accessible by foot, with no road in and out, according to state land officials.
Nearly 7,600 acres of private property surround the state’s land. “That’s a pretty big ranch,” explained Gus Martinez, Santa Fe County Assessor. “It is a remote property. The only way you can get access is really through the ranch hand, and so you can’t just really drive into that property because the gates are closed,” said Martinez.
Nexstar’s KRQE requested records in Santa Fe County to verify how much land the Epstein estate still owns. Martinez was surprised to find records showing portions of the Zorro ranch had indeed changed ownership, according to a mysterious deed filed in 2020.
The Santa Fe County Assessor’s office located a deed filed with Santa Fe County in October 2020, transferring the Zorro Ranch from Epstein’s company, Cypress Inc. to Love and Bliss, a nonprofit church for $200.
So, why would the Epstein trust sign over land to a Florida church for $200?
The listed address for Love and Bliss church is a small home in Redington Beach, Florida. Founded in 2018, the Christian nonprofit’s listed president is 22-year-old Alexander Leszczynski. Florida records show he was arrested in 2017 for stalking, and again in March for battery.
The Love and Bliss deed is stamped with a notary signature, as well as Jeffrey Epstein’s. The document states it was created in April of 2019.
A Florida address for the attorney listed on the deed turns up as a realty office on Google, with no relation to an attorney listed on the document. The New York phone number on the deed belongs to a Jack Dewitt Sales office, who said they’ve had the same number for 60 years, and did not have an attorney by the name of the person listed on the deed.
Love and Bliss Deed
KRQE finally reached a representative from the Epstein estate, and asked whether the estate was aware of the Love and Bliss deed filed in New Mexico. “It’s the same people that filed a fraudulent warranty deed in Florida,” said Daniel Weiner, an attorney for the Epstein estate. “This cost the estate money and court time to get it thrown out,” he added.
It turns out Love and Bliss filed a fake deed in Florida for Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion, clouding the estate’s ability to sell the Florida property. Court documents show a Florida judge found the deed there “invalid and unenforceable.”
In violation of the Florida court’s final judgment, a second fraudulent deed was filed under the name, Hung Shungli. Love and Bliss were directed to cease and desist. “They don’t have any claim on this property either,” said Weiner, of the New Mexico property. “If Love and Bliss filed a warranty deed clouding our ability to sell the property, then we’ll definitely have to go to court to get rid of it,” he added.
KRQE reached out to First Judicial District Attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies, to find out what, if any, recourse there is against someone who files a fraudulent deed. “There is absolutely recourse for filing a fraudulent deed,” said Carmack-Altwies.
The District Attorney explained deeds are filed with the County Clerk’s office, but it’s not the clerk’s job to verify if the document is real. “That was really supposed to be the notary’s job,” explained Carmack-Altwies.
Why would someone file a fraudulent deed?
Though she hadn’t seen the deed in question yet, Carmack-Altwies said, “They think that they can get in and maybe then start selling off pieces and portions of it and get away with it.”
“And then it would just perpetuate the fraud because new, innocent owners would come in, give these people money, and then be part of this scheme and not actually own that,” said Carmack-Altwies. “So I think it’s great that you caught it, because hopefully you’ve stopped it in its tracks.”
The Epstein estate attorney said its preparing the Zorro ranch property for sale, but they have no potential buyers yet. The estate will take court action to clear the fake deed, and funds from the sale of the property will go toward the victim compensation program, Weiner said.
Florida Court Order
“I’ve also thoroughly investigated the criminal conduct on that ranch,” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said. “We really should have been investigating past conduct, and unfortunately those cases were swept under the rug.”
Balderas said Epstein was able to hide out in New Mexico. “Clearly, he had political influence,” Balderas said of Epstein, and previous political figures in New Mexico. Balderas also blames weak state laws that allowed Epstein to avoid registering as a sex offender in New Mexico.
Epstein’s New Mexico hideout
“It’s a black eye to the legacy of the state of New Mexico,” said Balderas. “We’ve tried to close loopholes with the legislature to not invite human traffickers to New Mexico, and that bill has died in the Senate two years in a row.”
Balderas said that had Epstein been required to register as a sex offender in New Mexico, he believes it would have triggered authorities to take a closer look early on. “I believe Jeffrey Epstein knew that we had weak registration laws, that we weren’t synced with the federal government.”
Over the years, women came out accusing the New York-based investor of sexually abusing them at his New Mexico ranch. In 2008, Epstein pled guilty in Florida for soliciting a minor for prostitution. He never faced charges in New Mexico.
“By the time I inherited the case, you’re talking about generations of time had passed, and I think that was part of the illicit cover-up of a very powerful individual,” Balderas explained.
“I’ve spoken with many of the victims and I’ve been very critical that my past colleagues did not do a great job in Florida, New York, and in New Mexico, in investigating, and bringing timely, reasonable restitution and resources to these victims,” Balderas added. He said he was unable to verify from previous administrations whether the former U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico was ever notified by New York or Florida authorities of Epstein’s criminal conduct.
The convicted sex offender died in jail in 2019, awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Epstein’s death was ruled a suicide.
As for his New Mexico mansion and canceled state lease, “The feds are in the best position to seize those assets,” said Balderas. “I’ve also written to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York that they promptly seize the New Mexico ranch, and they convert that ranch to proceeds for victims throughout the country.”
If New Mexico had proper access to the grazing land Epstein’s estate used to lease, Garcia Richard said, “Ultimately, we would like to see the land returned to New Mexicans.”
The District Attorney in Santa Fe said the Epstein estate could pursue criminal charges against Love and Bliss for the fake deed since it appears fraud and forgery were involved. That would be considered a white-collar crime that the Attorney General’s office could get involved in, Carmack-Altwies explained.
KRQE tried to contact Alex Leszczynski, founder of Love and Bliss, to get his side of the story for this report, but were unable to reach him.